Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Post-It Note Reviews: Quick recommendations for all ages

Between book mail and being able to pick up my holds at the public library, I am never without a good book (or, you know, a good 30 books) to read. Here are quick reviews of what I’ve read lately.

Post-it Note Reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds, Danica Novgorodoff (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781534444959 Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Publication date: 10/13/2020, Ages 14-18)

Jason Reynolds’s Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, and Coretta Scott King Honor–winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novel Long Way Down is now a gripping, galvanizing graphic novel, with haunting artwork by Danica Novgorodoff.

Will’s older brother, Shawn, has been shot.
Dead.
Will feels a sadness so great, he can’t explain it. But in his neighborhood, there are THE RULES:

No. 1: Crying.
Don’t.
No matter what.

No. 2: Snitching
Don’t.
No matter what.

No. 3: Revenge
Do.
No matter what.

But bullets miss. You can get the wrong guy. And there’s always someone else who knows to follow the rules…

(POST-IT SAYS: Profound and difficult conversations and realities come to life (uh, well, in death) with the expansive ink and watercolor illustrations that really convey the emotions, pain, and grief of Will and his elevator friends.)

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani (ISBN-13: 9780062656919 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/09/2020, Ages 13-17)

From the moment Carli and Rex first locked eyes on a Texas high school basketball court, they both knew it was destiny. But can you truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself?

Acclaimed author Liara Tamani’s luminous second novel explores love, family, heartbreak, betrayal, and the power of healing, in gorgeous prose that will appeal to readers of Nicola Yoon and Jacqueline Woodson.

A glance was all it took. That kind of connection, the immediate and raw understanding of another person, just doesn’t come along very often. And as rising stars on their Texas high schools’ respective basketball teams, destined for bright futures in college and beyond, it seems like a match made in heaven. But Carli and Rex have secrets. As do their families.

Liara Tamani, the author of the acclaimed Calling My Name, follows two Black teenagers as they discover how first love, heartbreak, betrayal, and family can shape you—for better or for worse. A novel full of pain, joy, healing, and hope for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jenny Han.

(POST-IT SAYS: I liked her first book a lot and this one is also just as lovely—full of emotional, poetic prose and complex, smart characters. A solid look at first love, families, and expectations.)

Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593223338 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/13/2020 Series: Pocket Change Collective, Ages 12-17)

In this personal, moving essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Through her personal journey, readers can learn how they, too, can follow in Hannah’s footsteps and lower their carbon footprint by simply refusing single-use plastics.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, youth activist Hannah Testa, the founder of Hannah4Change, chronicles both her personal and political mission to save the Earth’s oceans by limiting single-use plastic products.

(POST-IT SAYS: This Pocket Change Collective series is amazing and so educational. Read this and then go watch A Plastic Ocean—then change your habits. I’m in awe of all this young activist has accomplished.)

Concrete Kids by Amyra León, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593095195 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/13/2020 Series: Pocket Change Collective, Ages 12-17)

In Concrete Kids, playwright, musician, and educator Amyra León uses free verse to challenge us to dream beyond our circumstances — and sometimes even despite them.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. 

Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra León takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon—and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.

(POST-IT SAYS: A gorgeous free verse memoir. Powerful, moving, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this little book packs a big punch. Again, this series is just so wonderful. I’ll be seeking out more of León’s work.)

Kwame Alexander’s Free Write: A Poetry Notebook by Kwame Alexander (ISBN-13: 9781728222189 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 11/03/2020 Series: Ghostwriter Series, Ages 8-14)

From the Newbery-Medal winning author of The Crossover and The Undefeatedcomes an exciting , interactive, poetry notebook—empowering kids to express themselves in verse.

Have you ever written a poem? How about rap lyrics or a letter or even a list? ‘Cause those can all be poetry too. Wanna give it a try? Bestselling author and poet extraordinaire Kwame Alexander created this super-fly notebook just for YOU! It’s bursting with cool activities, sizzling poetry starters, inspirational quotes, and lots of space to create. So grab your pen or pencil ’cause it’s time to give your words FLOW and RHYTHM and RHYME.

Incredible stories. Award-winning storytellers. Epic adventure, mystery, and fun? We’ve got it all in Ghostwriter, the extraordinary new series from the Emmy-award winning hit Apple TV+ show, created by your friends at Sesame Workshop.

(POST-IT SAYS: A great gift for the young writers in your life. Alexander’s voice and enthusiasm shine through and this interactive, visually appealing notebook will definitely jumpstart creativity.)

Heiress Apparently (Daughters of the Dynasty) by Diana Ma (ISBN-13: 9781419749964 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 12/01/2020, Ages 13-18)

The first book in an epic and romantic YA series following the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.

(POST-IT SAYS: Will appeal to those who like older YA—Gemma is just out of high school and many characters are older than that. Full of secrets, drama, and wild plot twists, this is a satisfying start to a series.)

Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics by Valérie Plante, Delphie Côté-Lacroix, Helge Dascher (Translator) (ISBN-13: 9781770464117 Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly Publication date: 12/01/2020, Ages 14+)

A story about political organizing and the power of community

Valérie Plante stood up to the patriarchal power system of her city, took down an incumbent, and became the first woman elected Mayor of Montreal. Her origin story comes alive in Okay, Universe. This captivating graphic novel—created in a true collaboration with Governor-General Award-winner Delphie Côté-Lacroix—follows her journey from community organizer and volunteer to municipal candidate, and the phone call from the local social justice political party that changed her life forever.

Okay, Universe is the first time Plante has told her story, and she has chosen an art form that is not just emblematic of the city of Montreal and its love of the arts and bande dessinée, it’s an art form that is accessible to all readers and perfectly suited to her message. With patience, determination, and the strength of will to remain true to her core beliefs, Okay, Universe details the inspiring political campaign where slowly but surely she gained the trust of a neighbourhood fighting for affordable housing, environmental protections, and equal opportunities. Okay, Universe demystifies the path to success, simultaneously showing the Mayor’s inextinguishable commitment to creating positive change in the world and educating about the vitality of political engagement.

(POST-IT SAYS: An inspiring and empowering look at one woman’s journey through politics and activism. With maybe more women than ever holding political offices, this is a great book to get in young readers’ hands. Shows the power of organizing and of community.)

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins (ISBN-13: 9780593108611 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 10-13)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s poignant middle grade novel in verse about coming to terms with indelible truths of family and belonging.

For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.

(POST-IT SAYS: Such a powerful and compassionate look at addiction, domestic violence, homelessness, families, loss, grief, and neglect. As hopeful as it is sad. I hope Hopkins does more middle grade.)

Malcolm and Me: A Novel by Robin Farmer (ISBN-13: 9781684630837 Publisher: SparkPress Publication date: 11/17/2020, Ages 14-17)

Philly native Roberta Forest is a precocious rebel with the soul of a poet. The thirteen-year-old is young, gifted, black, and Catholic—although she’s uncertain about the Catholic part after she calls Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite for enslaving people and her nun responds with a racist insult. Their ensuing fight makes Roberta question God and the important adults in her life, all of whom seem to see truth as gray when Roberta believes it’s black or white. 

An upcoming essay contest, writing poetry, and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X all help Roberta cope with the various difficulties she’s experiencing in her life, including her parent’s troubled marriage. But when she’s told she’s ineligible to compete in the school’s essay contest, her explosive reaction to the news leads to a confrontation with her mother, who shares some family truths Roberta isn’t ready for. 

Set against the backdrop of Watergate and the post-civil rights movement era, Malcolm and Me is a gritty yet graceful examination of the anguish teens experience when their growing awareness of themselves and the world around them unravels their sense of security—a coming-of-age tale of truth-telling, faith, family, forgiveness, and social activism.

(POST-IT SAYS: Very interesting historical fiction read about race, identity, religion, families, racism, Black power, and speaking out. A quick by heavy and deep read that will appeal to character-driven readers.)

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (ISBN-13: 9781250314116 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Publication date: 09/15/2020, Ages 8-12)

In Fly on the Wall, a moving and hilarious diary-style illustrated novel from the award-winning author of Pie in the Sky, a twelve-year-old boy goes on a (forbidden) solo adventure halfway around the world to prove his independence to his overprotective family.

Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywherewithout his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever. 

Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humor, heart, and hijinks that’s a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale!

(POST-IT SAYS: Totally burned through this book. Loved it. A heavily illustrated story about a literal journey of independence filled with foibles and unexpected moments and realizations. A fantastic read that is easy to widely recommend.)

A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha (ISBN-13: 9781682815090 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 12/01/2020, Ages 14-18)

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain for years.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers intofood.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

A Curse of Roses includes themes, imagery, and content that might be triggering for some readers. Discussions of religious-based self harm, religious-based eating disorders, and religious-based internalized homophobia appear throughout the novel.

(POST-IT SAYS: Not my usual fare, but I’m so glad I picked it up. History meets fairy tale meets fantasy. An interesting and often beautifully written addition to all those genres and fields.)

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf by Hayley Krischer (ISBN-13: 9780593114117 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 14-17)

Ali Greenleaf and Blythe Jensen couldn’t be more different.

Ali is sweet, bitingly funny, and just a little naive. Blythe is beautiful, terrifying, and the most popular girl in school. They’ve never even talked to each other, until a party when Ali decides she’ll finally make her move on Sean Nessel, her longtime crush and the soccer team’s superstar. But Sean pushes Ali farther than she wants to go. When she resists–he rapes her.

Blythe sees Ali when she runs from the party, everyone sees her. And Blythe knows something happened with Sean; she knows how he treats girls. Even so, she’s his best friend, his confidant. When he tells her it was a misunderstanding, she decides to help him make things right.

So Blythe befriends Ali, bringing her into a circle of ruthless popular girls, and sharing her own dark secrets. Despite the betrayal at the heart of their relationship, they see each other, in a way no one ever has before.

In her searing, empowering debut novel, Hayley Krischer tells the story of what happened that night, and how it shaped Ali and Blythe forever. Both girls are survivors in their own ways, and while their friendship might not be built to last, it’s one that empowers each of them to find justice on their own terms.

(POST-IT SAYS: As empowering as it is upsetting. A nuanced, infuriating, and compassionate look at sexual assault and complicated (and manipulative) relationships. Not to be missed.)

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung (ISBN-13: 9781646140114 Publisher: Levine Querido Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 8-12)

Best friends Matt and Eric are hatching a plan for one big final adventure together before Eric moves away: during the marching band competition at a Giant Amusement Park, they will sneak away to a nearby comics convention and meet their idol-a famous comic creator. Without cell phones. Or transportation. Or permission. Of course, their final adventure together is more than just that-really, it’s a way for the boys to celebrate their friendship, and their honest love and support for one another. That’s exactly what we love so much about The Boys in the Back Row: it’s an unabashed ode to male friendship, because love between boys, platonic or otherwise, is something to celebrate. And of course, because this is Mike Jung, we’ll be celebrating it with hilariously flawed hijinks and geekiness galore!

(POST-IT SAYS: A unique and loving look at male friendship. Though filled with typical middle school homophobia, racism, and microaggressions, kids and parents call that stuff out and confront it in real and refreshing ways. I loved Matt and Eric’s close friendship. A great read.)

Grown by Tiffany D Jackson (ISBN-13: 9780062840356 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/15/2020, Ages 14-17)

An instant New York Times bestseller! “Grown exposes the underbelly of a tough conversation, providing a searing examination of misogynoir, rape culture, and the vulnerability of young black girls. Groundbreaking, heart-wrenching, and essential reading for all in the #MeToo era.” —Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles

Award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that exposes horrific secrets hiding behind the limelight and embraces the power of a young woman’s voice.

When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields?

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted’s dreams had turned into a nightmare. Because behind Korey’s charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he’s dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted.

(POST-IT SAYS: Profound. Possibly one of the most powerful and gripping books I’ve ever read. A horrific look at abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, and ambition. You need to read this.)

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy by Melissa de la Cruz (ISBN-13: 9781250311214 Publisher: Roaring Brook Press Publication date: 12/01/2020 Series: The Chronicles of Never After , #1, Ages 10-14)

Real life and fairy tales collide in Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy, book one in the new middle-grade Never After series from the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Descendants series, Melissa de la Cruz. 

Nothing ever happens in Filomena Jefferson-Cho’s sleepy little suburban town of North Pasadena. The sun shines every day, the grass is always a perfect green, and while her progressive school swears there’s no such thing as bullying, she still feels bummed out. But one day, when Filomena is walking home on her own, something strange happens. 

Filomena is being followed by Jack Stalker, one of the heroes in the Thirteenth Fairy, a series of books she loves about a brave girl and her ragtag group of friends who save their world from an evil enchantress. She must be dreaming, or still reading a book. But Jack is insistent—he’s real, the stories are real, and Filomena must come with him at once!

Soon, Filomena is thrust into the world of evil fairies and beautiful princesses, sorcerers and slayers, where an evil queen drives her ruthless armies to destroy what is left of the Fairy tribes. To save herself and the kingdom of Westphalia, Filomena must find the truth behind the fairytales and set the world back to rights before the cycle of sleep and destruction begins once more.

(POST-IT SAYS: Super fun and a really easy one to recommend. Hand this to readers who like Land of Stories and Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Filomena is a great, smart, adventurous character. Can’t wait for more in the series!)

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi (ISBN-13: 9780062943200 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 8-12)

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

This relatable and empathetic story about two friends coming to understand each other will resonate with readers who loved Other Words for Home and Front Desk

(POST-IT SAYS: I always appreciate books set outside of the US. A really wonderful story of friendship, identity, culture, family, and connection. Mimi and Sakina’s friendship is really beautiful. A great read.)

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